Series M, Episode 12 - Medieval And Macabre
- The panel are shown a word cloud and are asked which of things mentioned they did not have in the middle ages. The phrases are "Official commemorative merchandise", "Pre-fabs", "Sweet and sour sauce", "Greeting cards" and "Iron maiden". The only one that did not exist was the iron maiden (both the torture implement, and the band). The idea of a metal sarcophagus with metal spikes inside it was not imagined until 1793, when archaeologist Johann Siebenkees wrote a hoax account of one. About a century later a man named Matthaus Pfau had one installed in his Swiss castle in Kyburg as a visitor attraction. All the other items in the word cloud exist:
- "The wickedest, the silliest, the most insane and the most disastrous book in the world literature" is Malleus Maleficarum, known in English as The Hammer of Witches. It was a textbook designed to find and destroy witches. When this book was released in the mid-15th century the Church banned belief in witches, so there were no witch burnings or executions at the time. However, because the book became so successful movement for track witches down slowly grew. Thus this book led to the deaths of thousands of women. Among the claims made in the book they included the idea that witches dispossessed men of their penises, put the penises on a tray, and the penises would wonder around of their own, eating oats and corn. (Forfeit: The Da Vinci Code)
- XL: The thing that old Mummy Pettigrew did was unwrap Egyptian mummies in public. Thomas "Mummy" Pettigrew was a 19th century anatomist would invite people to see a mummy being unwrapped. People would pay to attend, and the more you paid the nearer you could see the performance. Another Egyptologist, George Gliddon, proudly unrolled the mummy of what he claimed to be a princess in 1850, but as he unrolled it a penis was revealed. These events were so popular that on one occasion, the Archbishop of Canterbury was pushed out of a mummy unrolling because the press and crowds we so large he could not get a decent view. One of Pettigrew's fans, the Duke of Hamilton, asked Pettigrew to mummify him when he died. He did so, but the size of the sarcophagus was wrong, so the duke's feet had to be sawn off so he could fit in it. The most northerly place where mummies have been found is Barnsley, where Egyptians in Roman legions were mummified. People of all classes would be mummified. As well as the Valley of the Kings there was also the Valley of the Artisans and Artists, which contains the mummies of the people who built the tombs of the pharaohs.
- The way to get a whole row of seats to yourself on a Virgin Airways flight is by dying. Normally, if someone dies on a plane the procedure is turn back if possible and return to where you took off, but if you have travelled to far already then you continue with your flight. British Airways have about 10 deaths a year in flight, for 36 million passengers. If you extrapolate out to the 3.5 billion passengers who fly a year, then that means on average 1,000 people die in flight across the globe. Different airlines have different ways for dealing with deaths. For example, Singapore Airlines have a corpse cupboard. If you die on a British Airways flight you are moved to first class. One long established steward said: "Many years ago we used to give them a vodka and tonic, a Daily Mail and eye shades, and tell the passengers they were fine. We don't do that anymore." Stephen approves of this being scrapped - as he hates the idea of being given a copy of the Daily Mail.
- XL: The panel are shown a photograph of a man and are asked how he would make your mouth water. The man in question is Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, who got dogs to salivate for food using a metronome, and not a bell. Pavlov was able to demonstrate how sophisticated a dog's hearing was, such as distinguishing rhythms of 96 and 104 beats per minute. Thus Pavlov gave 104 beats per minute on a metronome and there would be no food, then 96 beats per minute on a metronome and there would be food. Later, when Pavlov set the metronome at 96 beats per minute the dogs would immediately salivate. Pavlov also tried ascending and descending musical scales. While the followers of Pavlov used bells, Pavlov himself didn't, which is fitting as in 1904 Pavlov was the first Russian to win the Nobel Prize. He won his prize for medicine and his work on digestion. To celebrate he sold the gastric juices of his dogs, which he would collect by sticking a catheter into a dog's stomach. (Forfeit: Ring a bell)
- The thing that is dense, slimy, lives at the bottom of the sea and is called Matt (rather than David Walliams) is a mat of microbes that photosynthesise so much they are responsible for our oxygen-rich atmosphere. They eat hydrogen and breathe nitrates. The largest known one is the size of Greece, and is off the coast of Peru and Chile. The total weight of microbes in the ocean is the same as 240 billion African elephants. That is the same as having 35 African elephant-sized piles of microbes for everyone on the planet.
- People used to have their dirt-holes burgled without their knowledge. Human faeces used to be a profitable item, and like any item with a value people will want to steal it. This occurred in the 18th and 19th centuries, when people would have holes filled with rubbish and people paid to take away the rubbish from people. These included "flying dustmen" who paid to collect the dust from people. Even dead animals had a value. For example a white cat cost sixpence, while a multi-coloured cat was fourpence. They had "software" such dead animals, and "hardware" like broken crockery and oyster shells that could be used by road builders.
- XL: The heinous crime that was committed by Baby-Face Bertillon was nibbling at all the pears in a basket. The Bertillon System, as once described by Sherlock Holmes, was the first known example of using mugshots to help solve crimes. Bertillon took photos of his son Francois, and discovered that ears are very useful in identifying people, so therefore you need both the view from the front and from the side. This was later adopted by the French and the British police.
- Monk's earwax could be used for their manuscripts. A substance called glair to illuminate their manuscripts which tended to form bubbles, but adding earwax to it stopped the bubbles from forming. You can test this yourself by putting a bit of earwax on a foaming head of a pint of beer, as the oil in the earwax will make the head collapse. One common aspect that reappears in medieval manuscripts includes depictions of knights fighting snails or comments written by the monks complaining of the cold.
- Most missionaries are positioned in the United States. It is the country where most missionaries are sent to. No-one knows exactly why. Some think the missionaries just want to go to a rich country. Others think the USA has lapsed into sin. (Forfeit: Africa)
- To impersonate someone in the stocks you should stick your legs out and spread them apart. The stocks trapped your feet, whereas a pillory trapped your hands and neck. Some people treated people in the stocks with forgiveness and would though flowers at the victim. One such person who had flowers thrown at him in the stocks was Daniel Defoe. However, some people would throw stones at the victim and someone in the stocks could actually die. One man, Charles Hitchen, who was convicted of attempted sodomy, went into the stocks wearing a suit of armour to protect himself. (Forfeit: Like this)
- Friday 22nd January 2016
- BBC Two
- 30 minutes
Cast & crew
|Stephen Fry||Host / Presenter|
|Alan Davies||Regular Panellist|
|James Harkin||Script Editor|
|John Mitchinson||Question Writer|
|Justin Pollard||Question Writer|
|Molly Oldfield||Question Writer|
|Andrew Hunter Murray||Question Writer|
|John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE)||Series Producer|
|Sohail Shah||Executive Producer|
|Jonathan Paul Green||Production Designer|